Island Grown Initiative executive director Rebecca Haag, who spearheaded the creation of the Vineyard’s food equity network and IGI’s 2021 merger with the Island Food Pantry, has announced she will retire this spring.

“We need to pass the baton,” Ms. Haag told the Gazette Monday afternoon. “It’s time for new energy and new leadership.”

Ms. Haag said she will step down once Island Grown has opened its farm employee housing in Vineyard Haven and relocated the food pantry to its permanent home in Oak Bluffs.

“I want to spend some time, if I can, to help the next person get on board,” she added.

The Island Grown board of directors will launch a search for Ms. Haag’s replacement, she said, while senior program director and founding IGI member Noli Taylor and managing director Michelle Gittlen will provide support during the transition.

“The organization has a really seasoned management team, we have a really engaged board [and] our finances are in good shape,” Ms. Haag said. “It just feels like the right time.”

Along with the new employee housing, expected to open in April at the Island Grown farm, Ms. Haag leaves the nonprofit with a permanent food pantry and warehouse site in the new Island Food Center on Dukes County avenue in Oak Bluffs, purchased last year, and a fully equipped commercial kitchen in Edgartown, acquired in late 2022.

A $10 million capital campaign is nearing completion as well, she said.

“This organization has grown fourfold in the last eight years,” said Ms. Haag, who was named executive director in May of 2016.

Almost as soon as she took the helm, Ms. Haag began working to widen the agricultural nonprofit’s mission.

“It was great to be doing educational work for kids around food, and the fact that we had our farm, but we needed to ensure that all Islanders had access to that and could participate in our food system,” she said.

“Working closely with Noli and the management team, we wrote a new strategic plan and codified that the focus going forward would be an equitable and regenerative food system,” Ms. Haag said.

Reaching out to nonprofits and public agencies across the Vineyard, Ms. Haag assembled the first food equity network meetings in 2016, kicking off a series of partnerships with churches, elder services and other groups who have been collaborating to identify and meet the food needs of vulnerable Islanders.

“We’re all making sure we are working together to better coordinate our resources,” she said. “We uncover gaps and we figure out solutions.”

Other achievements on Ms. Haag’s watch include the free summer lunch program launched in 2017, which aims to feed Island children when schools are closed; the Mobile Market, a lower-priced produce truck that visits working-class and retirement neighborhoods; and the pandemic-era food pantry merger.

Under her leadership, the nonprofit’s Thimble Farm in Oak Bluffs has transitioned from traditional farming practices to regenerative agriculture techniques designed to keep carbon in the soil and improve crop yields.

“Carbon mitigation is a critical focus, [and] we with our farm can be basically an educational center and a model of how you can do farming in a way that can be climate friendly,” Ms. Haag said.

“The transformation of our farm is truly astonishing to me,” she said, noting the advantages of composting food and farm waste to nourish the fields.

“You can see the different in the soil ­— it’s healthy, pulling nitrogen down into the root system, [and] our produce is richer in color.”

The farm also has a community garden where Islanders can learn and practice regenerative techniques, she said.

Agriculture was not Ms. Haag’s specialty when she came to Island Grown.

Formerly chief executive officer of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and the AIDS Action Council and Foundation, she helped create what would become the national AIDS strategy adopted by President Obama in 2008.

A longtime summer resident of Chilmark, where she lives with her wife, Mary Breslauer, Ms. Haag had previously held senior executive positions with advertising and consulting firms.

“I’m somebody who is a builder and somebody who likes to work on strategy... seeing where the gaps are and creating a future,” she said.

“I didn’t have the content, [but] the staff that was already here... married their experience and skill set and knowledge with my experience,” Ms. Haag said. “That really helped us grow this organization.”

While she wants to spend more time traveling and playing tennis, she also plans to volunteer in retirement. Ms. Haag also serves on the board of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

“I’m not giving up my responsibilities to be a good community member,” she said. “I’m just passing my leadership on to the new leaders in the community that will take us forward and solve some of the problems that still exist.”